My Privacy-Focused Productivity Setup (2020)

Ahmed Musaad
Ahmed Musaad
My Privacy-Focused Productivity Setup (2020)

We all need a way to send our friends the latest memes but that doesn't mean we should sacrifice our privacy and data control while doing so. In this post, I share some of the services I use to protect my privacy and remain productive.

Over the past two years, I have been slowly moving most of my productivity setup to services that respect privacy and offer outstanding security as part of my move towards controlling my personal data and supporting these services. In this post, I share some information on the services I use with the hope you will start using some or all of them soon.

This post is about my personal productivity setup, things I use day to day to communicate with people, plan personal matters, take notes, stay safe and do what people do in their time outside work. I have a different setup for work productivity with a different threat model and I might write about it one day.

Email, Calendar, and Contacts

I switched to ProtonMail a few years ago and never looked back. The Switzerland-based company offers top-notch services with best-in-class privacy and security measures. I mainly use ProtonMail for, well, Email but recently, I started using it for both Calendar and Contacts management.

Browsers

I love Firefox, I really do but my experience with the browser has been less than optimal to say the least. The different in performance between Firefox and Chrome is striking and slightly disappointing which led me to make a compromise and opt for Brave as my daily driver. Brave has reasonable privacy features built into it and doesn't sacrifice the performance of Chromium-based browsers. I still have Firefox and Edge installed on my Windows laptops, and Safari on my Apple devices.

Note-taking

Picking a good note-taking app with good security and privacy features can be quite the challenge. I have tried many options and ended up unsatisfied every single time, Until I learned about Standard Notes. With usable apps on all platforms I use, and outstanding security, Standard Notes is a solid choice for note-taking. I am currently in the process of moving my last notes from Notion.

Things I Tried: Evernote, OneNote, Joplin, Notion, and Apple Notes, NotePlan, and Standard Notes.

Messaging

We all need a way to send our friends the latest memes but that doesn't mean we should sacrifice our privacy and data control while doing so. I used both Signal and WhatsApp to communicate with people. I am still using WhatsApp because I can't seem to get all of my family to switch to Signal, not yet.

VPN

Everyone loves a good VPN, whether you are trying to stay safe on a public Wi-Fi or want to stream some Netflix shows from another region, a good VPN is an essential tool for those serious about their privacy and security. I use ProtonVPN (yes, same company as the email one) and have been super happy with their service both in terms of performance and security. Be careful, having access to all of Netflix's content is a dangerous maze 😄.

I must say, I love Mullvad VPN, they are hands down one of the best VPN providers out there. The only reason I went with ProtonVPN is the ability to unlock region-locked content which works flawlessly on ProtonVPN.

Things I Tried: NordVPN, ExpressVPN, Mullvad*, Self-hosted VPN and ProtonVPN.

Cloud Storage

Much like with note-taking apps, I tried so many storage providers and only few of them measured up to my expectations. I used Dropbox for a while before I migrated my files to Tresorit. Their service is one of the best available online in terms of security and privacy. Their user interface is quite impressive as well. I do keep an iCloud storage quota to support the various Apple devices storage needs.

Things I Tried: OneDrive, Dropbox, Mega, iCloud, Google Drive and finally Tresorit.

Password Manager

With all the services I use and have accounts on, it's impossible for me to remember every password I create and It would be a shame if I used the same password for hundreds of logins. I use 1Password for password management. It works, it has great security and privacy features, and it integrates well with the browsers I use daily. I used LastPass for a couple of years until they did us all dirty and sold the company to LogMeIn not to mention their price hikes, so I migrated to 1Password.

Things I Tried: LastPass, Bitwarden, and 1Password.

Firewalls

I don't mean actual physical firewalls (although I have a couple of these) but rather applications that replace the default firewall that comes with operating systems. Believe me, I hate applications that communicate over the internet for no obvious reasons and I definitely don't want offline-only applications to ever see the internet from a hundred miles. I use GlassWire on Windows & Android, and Lulu on macOS.

Closing Notes

I am in the progress of migrating some stuff to these services and also conducting my yearly audit/review of what I use, need, and keep in each service. My hope is to start 2021 with a much stronger privacy posture, more control over my data, and some contribution to support these awesome services.


Cover Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash



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